Can You Be Charged With Theft For Shoplifting in Minnesota?
Most of the time, arrests related to shoplifting in Minnesota result from allegations that a person either placed an item in pocket with the intention to conceal it or tried to walk out of the store without paying for it. In both situations, the accused was stopped by employees of the store before they ever left the premises.
While these circumstances make up the bulk of shoplifting cases, it is possible for you to be charged with theft after leaving a store in Minnesota. There is nothing under the law that prevents the police from identifying you and making an arrest at a later date. While this is rare, it remains possible.
If you have been accused of shoplifting in Minnesota, it is vital that you seek out experienced legal counsel right away. The sooner you talk to a lawyer, the sooner you could learn about your legal options. Let the attorneys of Gerald Miller help you defend yourself from these serious charges.
Understanding Theft Charges for Shoplifting
Informally, the term for the offense of leaving a store with property you have not paid for is shoplifting. While this crime is formally recognized by some states, there is no shoplifting statute on the books in Minnesota. Instead, all theft offenses are governed by Minnesota Statutes Section 609.52.
There are different ways a theft charge could occur in a store. Some acts of shoplifting involve simply picking up an item and walking out without paying for it. Some individuals do so nonchalantly while others grab merchandise and make a run for it. There are other forms of theft that could happen as well. For example, removing or altering a price tag to make an item appear to be worth less than its actual price is another example of theft.
How Long Do the Police Have to Charge Me for Shoplifting in Minnesota?
While it is true that the police can file theft charges against you even after you have left the store, there are limits on how long they can wait to do so. These limits are thanks to a legal doctrine known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is more commonly associated with civil lawsuits, but the theory applies to criminal charges as well.
According to the statute of limitations, the state only has a limited amount of time to file criminal charges against you. If they wait until that deadline expires, the law bars a prosecutor from ever pursuing the charge again in the future. This is to prevent the state from waiting for years to bring a minor criminal charge, given that a lengthy delay could make it difficult for the accused to mount a defense.
The amount of time the state has to bring criminal charges varies. Under Minnesota law, some charges must be filed within three years of a criminal act occurring. For certain serious criminal charges like murder, there is no statute of limitations at all.
Most of the time, the statute of limitations for a theft offense is three years. The primary exception is for the theft of more expensive items. The theft of goods worth more than $35,000 carries a five-year statute of limitations.
There are some exceptions that could allow the government to toll the statute of limitations. Tolling—or pausing—the statute of limitations, gives the government additional time to file criminal charges. Tolling could be possible when a defendant flees the state to avoid prosecution.
Steps to Take if the Police Contact You About Shoplifting Allegations in Minnesota
If you are contacted by a member of law enforcement due to allegations of shoplifting, the steps you take could make the difference between facing an arrest and avoiding a conviction entirely.
If you are not detained at the store, the most likely scenario where you face arrest for shoplifting will involve a call or visit from the police. Typically in these cases, the store will file a report with the police and provide any evidence they have. This often involves any video evidence of your time in the store.
The police will then make a report before determining if the evidence warrants an arrest. If there is enough evidence to secure a warrant for your arrest, the police will contact you directly. If you are facing misdemeanor charges, you might even receive a notice to appear in court on a specific day instead of being arrested.
Regardless of the circumstances, you should never discuss any aspect of the allegations against you with the police. Whether you are served with a notice or arrested on theft charges, it is crucial that you do not discuss your case with the police or prosecutors in any way.
The one person you should take to about your situation is your attorney. The attorneys of Gerald Miller could advise you on your next steps following an arrest for shoplifting. Call right away to learn more.
Evidence in Shoplifting Cases
If you have been contacted by the police regarding an allegation of shoplifting in a Minnesota store, the government must have some form of evidence of wrongdoing. This evidence could come in many different forms, and much of it could be used against you at trial. Understanding what evidence you might be facing in your case could help you prepare for the charges against you.
There are different types of evidence that might be used against you in these cases. The most common—and often strongest—evidence of theft offenses in stores is security footage. While clear footage from a convenient vantage point could make for powerful evidence, the reality is that security footage is not always so clear. These cameras do not always capture the alleged theft, and the footage is often grainy. This can lead to false accusations and misidentifications.
Eye witness testimony is also common in shoplifting cases, but less so in cases where the accused left the store prior to their arrest. After all, a witness is more likely to detain the accused while they are still on the premises.
One of the most important pieces of evidence that might not be available is the object alleged to be stolen. Shoplifting cases are often straightforward to prove given that the accused typically had the item in question in their possession. If the arrest occurs after a person leaves the store, it is much less likely the police will discover it on their person. This could make it far more difficult for the state to make their case.
Defenses to Allegations of Shoplifting in Minnesota
You have the right to fight back against allegations of theft. Unfortunately, many people assume that an arrest for shoplifting will guarantee their conviction. In reality, the police often overstate the case they have built against you.
There are different defense strategies that could be useful in your case. In cases where the accused left the store before their arrest, it is not unusual for the police to make an arrest based on a false identification. Tracking down a person believed to have committed shoplifting can be difficult even when they are on video.
Sometimes the best defense strategy is to highlight the lack of evidence offered by the state. Do not forget that it is the state that ultimately must prove you are guilty of theft. If the evidence arrayed against you is not enough to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you deserve to be acquitted.
You might also have a constitutional basis for your defense. If the police unlawfully searched your home or seized your property during the course of their investigation, you could use that violation of your rights as part of your defense. Any evidence secured through an illegal search or seizure should be barred from your trial.
Contact an Attorney About Your Shoplifting Case in Minnesota
You are entitled to a strong defense in your shoplifting case. This is true whether you were arrested in the store or approached by law enforcement at some point afterward.
The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you develop the strongest defense possible in your theft case. We could review the facts of your case to determine the best way to approach your defense. To learn more about your legal options following an arrest, contact Gerald Miller for a free consultation.